Need For Speed: The Run Review (6 out of 10)
The last two Need for Speed tiles, Hot Pursuit and Shift, were considered more as spin-offs but have provided the best two racing games for the franchise. What The Run has going for it is that it returns to it’s old-school NFS roots. Black Box develops the game this time, making it the first time they have returned to the Need For Speed franchise since creating and finishing Underground and Undercover series. Once again players will return to nitrous-powered action that graced the last generation of NFS gamers. This is a welcome return for many veteran NFS fans, but unfortunately Black Box under-performs severely.
Growing up, the Need for Speed franchise was still rather new. Need for Speed Underground, developed by Black Box entertainment, featured an excellent career mode at the time. Even though it was a small portion of the game, it fulfilled its premise and brought a new dimension for the game. Fast-forwarding eight years to Need for Speed: The Run, it feels like jumping back in time and revisiting an old friend. The problem however, is that Black Box’s formula doesn’t hold up to arcade racing standards and fails to finish on the podium.
Diving right into the single player campaign, the main story line in The Run is your cheesy Hollywood setup. You play as Jack, a marked man who is being hunted down by the mob. The only way to pay his debt is to win a 3,000 mile race that spans from San Francisco to New York. The campaign gets straight to the point on what it wants you to accomplish. Driving from San Francisco to New York is often breath-taking because of the maps you race on through the long Nevada desert, down the cold and edgy Colorado Mountains and the packed Chicago Streets. Don't feel bad if you get distracted while you admire the scenery as you drive along. Even though it’s a beautiful treat, it doesn’t even come close to hiding all the problems with The Run's campaign mode.
The campaign has a good balance of racing types that you will eventually go through. Ranging from the time attack races, one-on-one battles, cop chases and your standard eight car races. These are all fun simply because of how the controls feel. Driving in The Run feels very loose, which is something to actually be glad about. It allows everyone to pick up the controls with ease and not have to learn how a car drives like some games. The only thing that requires learning on your part, is how certain car classes perform. There is a wide range of classes ranging from muscle cars to luxury cars which gives the game much needed variety and spice.
The biggest design flaw in the game is that progress from race to race never transfers over. Every time you race, it’s your mission to pass a certain amount of cars or finish a map with a certain time. If at any chance you fall below these standards, you are instructed to retry over and over again until you beat that stage. This the biggest design flaw because it stops people feeling like they are on the run. It makes the game feel very linear and out of place. If The Run could track progress from start to finish, then it would make players push the throttle more and have more excitement for the story.
Speaking of the story, the highly publicized story of Need for Speed The Run is probably the most disappointing things about the game. From the get go, it tries to be a Hollywood block buster but the problem is that it falters on nearly every level. Starting with Jack, who owes the mob money, but we don't know what he did or how he got in that position.
There are very few times that the game slows down to provide back-story for the main characters in the game but your going to get most information in the loading screens than in quick time events. The Run does provide some cool quick time events that take Jake out of the car but they're so few and far between each other that they are out of place and are not needed. It’s a real shame because The Run does have some good moments, it's just the package doesn't come together making the storyline easily forgettable while your racing towards New York. If it wasn’t so scripted and provided much needed story details, then Black Box might have had a good campaign to go along with its online features.
Online play is the biggest bright spot and will keep players playing for quite a long time. It’s nearly impossible to not early XP for racing. Even if you joined in a race late you can still climb the leaderboards and win. At the start of each race, depending on who you are playing with, you earn exclusive cars and gain ridiculously high XP if you come in first. Most of the modes are the same in story but tweaked a bit to balance the maps for online. It’s a very refreshing feature and you can see they developed the online first then worked on the single player experience.
Even though it has a great online experience, Need for Speed The Run will be a quick finish for most. It only takes three hours to finish the campaign. After the single player experience, you can still complete all the single and multiplayer challenges that await you. There is really nothing besides the multiplayer that will keep you coming back to The Run. To make things worse, the game has only 36 achievements and trophys to get, with most of them on the single player side. With a lack of long term content, people are simply going to be turned off by NFS and be busy playing something else during the holiday season.
Need for Speed The Run looks good on the outside as it provides beautiful visuals and is easily playable. The more you start digging, the more you will see that it’s just an average racing game that crashes in every possible way. Horrible story, dumb AI and the lack of freedom kills The Run's chances of being the best racer on the market. Black Box's under-performs severely, making it clear to EA that the Need for Speed franchise was better in other people’s hands.
Score: 6 out 10